Tiaras and blue collars

The pace of change in diplomatic messages was on display yesterday on television sets around the world, as the U.K. presented two public faces. At the White House, Queen Elizabeth, in her traditional tiara, dined with President and Mrs. Bush and offered a toast to the American people and British/American friendship. Meanwhile on YouTube, Tony Blair’s latest video gave a similar message of friendship to the new president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy. In sharp contrast to the queen, Blair wore a blue collared sports shirt instead of formal diplomatic clothes. His message was recorded in both English and French and his two-and-a-half minute video has already been viewed by more than 76,000 people. No doubt there is room for many kinds of messages sent through many different channels, allowing ordinary citizens to view their leaders as they practice their diplomatic skills. Which kind of message has more impact? Where will the future take us in political speech? Will the $1000 a plate dinner in an elegant hotel give way to sharp jabbing videos on the home screen? No one knows for sure, but everyone with an interest in public policy has to keep an eye out for changes in how information and ideas are presented and who is listening and watching. The future depends on who understands which way the information winds are blowing.

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